Mewar has been an uncommon shining example of communal harmony all through its glorious historical past. Its broadminded rulers have not only been extremely tolerant towards religions other than their own but also been generous to them by gifting them land and providing other facilities.
Like several communities, the Jains had always enjoyed the patronage of the ruling family of Mewar, and quite a few important positions in the state were held by the Jains. The rulers had also been supporting their temple-building activities. No wonder, the region can boast of several Jain temples which are unique in their structure and exquisite sculpture and which attract a large number of tourists from India and abroad throughout the year.
Ranakpur is one of the five main holy places of the Jains. Ranakpur Jain temple is renowned the world over for its excellent sculpture and architecture. It is about 96 Km from Udaipur and situated in the famous Kumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, surrounded by the verdant Aravali hills and located on the banks of river Magai. The grand and gigantic four faceted structure of the temple was erected in 14th century by Maharana Kumbha’s minister Dharna Shah Porwal. Built with white marble, this 102 ft. the high temple is three-storeyed and the temple structure spreads over an area of 4800 sq.ft. The present structure of the temple came into being after the hard work of 50 years by artisan Depa and his fellow artisans, sculptors, and laborers. Along with this temple situated at the foot of Madri hill, a small town at a distance of about 2 Km., also came into existence. This town got its name from Rana and was named Ranakpur which later on came to be known as Ranakpur.
It is dedicated to Lord Adinath, the first great Teerthankar who in Jain religion is the one who propounds the teachings of true religion and works towards the salvation of self as well as others. The ‘pratishtha’ of this temple took place in 1439 A.D. and was conducted by Acharya Som Sunder Suri. Built on a high platform, the temple has nine basements. It has 84 idols of gods and demigods and 1444 pillars elaborately and differently carved along with 4 Megha Mandaps. The pillars, beams, domes, glorious torans, (gateways) dancing figures of demigods and idols of Sahastra Fan Parshwanath, Nagdaman, Sahastrakut and the design of Kalptaru etc. all exhibit the grandeur and splendor of medieval sculpture. The temple is designed in such a way that the view from all the four sides is similar. The ornate and delicate carvings are a delight for the tourists to behold. The pillars that support the dome of the temple are about 40 ft. high. The temple was ruined with the passage of time due to natural calamities and foreign invasions. The renovation of the temple started in 1923 AD and continued till 1944. After renovation ‘pratishta’ took place again in 1952 AD. Surrounding the main temple, there are small shrines of Lord Parshwa Nath, Nemi Nath, and Surya Narain.
Rishabhdev Mandir has situated 65 Km. south of Udaipur is a religious town associated with Jainism that attracts a large number of pilgrims and tourists. Its location close to NH 8 makes it a convenient destination. Well known for its Adinath or Rikhabdeo idol, the temple is a big draw for tourists, especially from Gujarat and Maharashtra. Located at Dhulev town, the huge temple is dedicated to Adi Thirthankar Bhagwan Rishabhdeo. The town is now known as Rishabhdeo. Digambar, Shewatambar, Vaishnava, Shaiva, Bhils etc. worship here with great devotion. Kesar (saffron) is used extensively in worship here and the whole temple has the colour and aroma of ‘Kesar’. So the temple is also known as Kesariaji or Kesarianathji.
The bright black stone idol is three – feet high and is in ‘padmasan’ posture. Local tribals call him Kalaji and Rishabhdeo is their supreme lord. On the other hand, he is considered to be an incarnation of Vishnu. Every year in the Hindu month of Ashwin, he is taken out in a grand procession and the fair in Chaitra attracts a huge crowd of devotees from far and near. There are many legends about the construction of the temple. According to historical facts, it was renovated in the 14-15th century after great damage during foreign attacks. On entering the ‘nakkarkhana’ of the temple which covers an area of one km., one sees the idol of Chakreshwaridevi in the north and that of Padmavatidevi in the south. Then one sees Nauchauki and Khelmandap. In the south part is the Vaishnava temple of Charbhuja built by Dungarpur Maharani. On one side is the temple with a 5-foot high idol of 23rd Tirthankar Parshwanath in ‘padmasana’ posture. Statistics show that the number of visitors to this main center of reverence of the masses located in this predominantly tribal region is shooting up multifold is an another Mewar temple of great importance for Jains.
The Nagfani Parshwanath Tirth near Bichchiwada considered to be a place where Parshwanath did ‘tapasya’, the temple is situated on a steep slope near the bank of river Maishmo close to village Modar. The main idol in the temple is that of Parshwanath but it is not independent. On the head of his ‘sevak’, Dharmendra’s idol is also a small one of Parshwanath. The seven-headed idol is called Nagfani Parshwanath. There is also an idol of Mallinath and of Parshwanath which are made of black stone. Towards the left of the temple, there is a temple of Panchmukhi Mahadeo temple which shows the harmony between Jains and Hindus. The scenic beauty of the place also adds to the number of visitors, especially on Poornima. Newly wedded Jain couples are seen visiting the temple with families to seek blessings for a happy marital life.
In the ancient capital of Mewar, Ahad, or Agatpur situated in the eastern part of Udaipur City is the famous Jain temple complex which is considered to be the origin of Tapagachcha. It is said that after Jagachchchandra Suri did intense ‘tapasya’ for twelve years, his body began to glow like a diamond. Majharawal Jaitra Singh honored him and he began to be called Tapagachcha. It is also believed that Hemchandra, a reliable Shawak of Jagat Singh a minister of Jaitra Singh got all the Agam books of Jain religion written on palm leaves at this place. Ahad has five Swetambar and an equal number of Digambar temples. The complex has temples of Parshwanath, Shantinath, Adeshwar, Mahaveer Swami, and Suparshwanath. One can have ‘darshan’ of all the 24 Tirthankars here.
The huge Chaugan Ka Mandir near Chetak Circle on the Swarupsagar Fatehsagar road in Udaipur is of great significance for Jains. This beautiful temple has ‘shikhar band’ and has nine domes. The idols in it are those of Lord Shantinath, Jineshwar, Yaksha, Yakshini, Nageshwar Parshwanath, Lord Shantinath, Mahaveer Swami, Sumatinath and others all of which are made of white stone. The temple is especially important as it is perhaps the first temple of Lord Padmanabh. In his first birth as Shrenik, Padamnabh had killed a deer and when he went to Lord Mahaveer the latter predicted his birth as the first Tirthankar in the third ‘chaubisi’.
The efforts of Tourist Deptt. to promote these temples as Jain Pilgrimage Centres would add to the popularity of these places.